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Sunday, November 6, 2022

Estes Cone

Finally, some snow has hit the ground and it feels like winter. Winter hiking is pretty great, mostly because you sweat way less and there are fewer crowds. There were so few people on this hike to Estes Cone that we had to break the trail in the snow for the last half-mile to the summit after passing some out-of-towners that were doing it before we passed them. We unintentionally made them feel bad and slow when they asked us what time we started - Don't worry Washingtonians, this is a hard hike for even Coloradans. The snow was pretty light in some areas and knee-high in others, and combined with the rocky terrain, each step forward was a gamble on how far down you'd step. Maybe you would sink in 2 feet deep, or possibly land on a rock and twist your ankle, or hopefully the ground was flat and right under a thin layer of snow. The latter didn't happen very frequently. Because of those gambles, the stats for this hike are as follows:

Fall Count (Katie):5 (which averages out to less than once per mile!)
Fall Count (Noah):1 (butt didn't touch the ground, so I'm not sure it counts)
Bruised Knees (Katie):2/2 (Both of them! Ouch!!)
Bruised Knees (Noah):0/2

The day started with us driving into Rocky to try and park at Glacier Gorge to hike to Sky Pond. We got about half-way up the Bear Lake road when we saw the road was unexpectedly closed. RMNP is usually pretty good about posting road closures on their Twitter, which we checked when we had reception in Estes some 20 minutes prior and hadn't seen any notice of this particular closure yet. The ranger's best guess for when the road would reopen was going to be about 3 hours, so we quickly changed our plans and headed out of the park to get to the Longs Peak parking lot to do the hike to Estes Cone. On our way out, I got the Tweet notification that the road was closed - thanks for the late notice, RMNP... Then some 10 minutes later, I got another Tweet notification that the road was back open (so not the 3 hours that the ranger thought). I know the rangers and staff at RMNP are doing the best they can and isn't their fault, but this started our hiking adventure on a little bit of a sour note.

It's probably good we didn't do Sky Pond anyway since it's above treeline. There was a winter storm rolling over the mountains while we were hiking, and we hiked while it was snowing for most of the trip. Doing any hiking above treeline would have been absolutely miserable with the snow and wind. There were decent views up at the top of Estes Cone, but again, because of the storms, there wasn't that great of visibility and the wind didn't make for a good place to stop to eat lunch. The one good thing that I can say about this hike (other than the lack of people) is that it pushed our stats over the threshold for us to say that we've completed our New Years' Resolution. At the end of this hike, we have done 32,530 feet of elevation gain year-to-date, surpassing last year's 32,312 feet. We're only about 4 miles and 5 hours short of beating our mileage and hiking time stats from last year as well. We will definitely exceed those this year as well, but our New Years' resolution was to beat just one of our hiking stats from last year. Mission accomplished, now we can relax on our weekends instead and not have to hike at all the rest of the year, right?

MossySmall BridgeEstes ConeLongSummit Panorama

Saturday, November 12, 2022

First Lego League 2022

The second Saturday of November is always the Poudre High School First Lego League competition where I volunteer to be the photographer. I first started volunteering at this event in 2010 and have been doing it since except for the two years I lived in Iowa (2014 & 2015). This year, there were only 23 teams, which was pretty similar to last year, but way down from the year prior. Last year the excuse was the pandemic, I figured that it would have picked back up this year, but it didn't. Maybe it will be back to normal next year... I actually don't mind that it's smaller - there's less running around to do and it's a little less chaotic.

This year with the photography I think I did a good job at shooting with a faster shutter speed than my light meter recommended. It's easier to lighten up the photos than it is to de-blur them. The thing I don't think I did very well at was the depth of field. Since the gym was pretty dark, I was shooting with my 50mm prime lens at f/1.8. That low aperture meant that often one kid was in full focus but none of the kids around them were. So next year I hope I read this and correct that mistake. Another thing I could have done better was to use a better focusing mode. Since I don't shoot a lot of fast-moving things, my focus was often missing the action and I'd have the first shot in a series in perfect focus and then the rest of them wouldn't be.

The AwardsFLL 2022Part of the ChallengeHigh FiveSuper PoweredTruckWindmill

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Finch Lake

It's almost snowshoeing season! Well not really, but we've had some great snowfall here recently that makes it seems like it's snowshoeing season. We didn't need snowshoes for this hike to Finch Lake, but there were some areas where the snow was almost a foot deep and soft enough that we would fall right through it. The hike started from an unusual trailhead in a neighborhood rather than from the traditional Wild Basin trailhead area in Allenspark. We choose this trailhead because it made the hike about a mile shorter, which was great for me since I was tired from being on my feet all day on the previous day. Even with that shortcut, this hike was still pretty killer for me and probably a little more than I should have done, but I made it all the way there and back (with lots of complaining - just ask Katie).

But before we started the hike, we had to find a parking spot. Several hiking apps warned us that there were a lot of strict no parking signs around the trailhead, so we carefully looked around when we got there and decided on a parking spot. We drove onto the shoulder of the dirt road and onto untouched snow when the car quickly fell into a ditch. We spent about 20 minutes using a small shovel Katie had in her car and her slipping with her wheels on the ground before we finally got out of the ditch and parked somewhere flatter.

I like photographing summer hikes a lot better than winter hikes. The snow coverage often makes the photos look a less detailed and overly bright, so that's the main reason why there aren't many photos in this blog post. That combined with me being generally low on energy meant that I didn't take my camera out very many times. But the snow is my reality for hikes (or snowshoeing) for the next 5-ish months, so I need to start switching my mindset to be able to capture the beauty of snowy hikes.

Over the RiverClumps of SnowFinch LakeUntouched SnowLongs and Meeker

Sunday, November 20, 2022

All the Sights Along the Way to Sky Pond

Our hike this week consisted of going to the Loch, a large sub-alpine lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. The Loch is a pretty easy (for us) hike that's only about 5.5 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain. But the trail doesn't end at the Loch, it continues on to Timberline Falls, then onto the Lake of Glass, and ends at Sky Pond. We made it to the Loch pretty quickly which is a gorgeous lake, but it was mostly in shade which wasn't as photogenic as I would have liked. After getting to the Loch and both of us feeling pretty good, we decided to continue on to Timberline Falls, which this time of year was completely frozen over. There were several groups of people ice climbing on the frozen waterfall which was cool to take a break while watching them. The next section of the tail was an incredibly dangerous ice scramble. We had to climb up the side of Timberline Falls which is a difficult rock scramble in the summertime, so it was nearly ice-climbing this time of year. With only having our microspikes, we were ill-prepared for what came next. We made it up with a bit of caution but the way back was quite trickier and it only added to the adventure when Katie slid down the 30-40ft "ice slide" at an alarming speed. But neither of us got hurt. This got us talking about wether or not they make mini ice axes (pocket-knife style) that could have helped in this kind of situation. But so far I haven't found such a product...

From the ice scramble we continued on to the Lake of Glass, which was by far the best lake of the hike. The sun was just in the right spot and the surrounding mountains were facing the right direction for the sun. The lake itself was completely frozen over, and as its name suggests, it was like walking on top of glass. The ice was crystal clear in some spots which was quite nerve-wracking to walk on top of. There were several places (on all of the lakes) where there were large cracks going through the ice from the ice moving around. It was in the cracked areas that you could see just how thick the sheet of ice was because there was a deep ribbon of white ice where the crack occurred. The ice on Lake of glass, as well as at the Loch and Sky Pond, were all well over a foot deep, but we still exercised some caution after Katie's mishap stepping through the ice at Lake Helene about a month earlier.

Leaving the Lake of Glass we continued on about a quarter-mile to Sky Pond. The trail to Sky Pond was less packed down which left us post-holing almost the entire way there. We definitely could have benefited from having snowshoes while getting to Sky Pond, but we didn't bring them with us since we weren't sure that we would make it that far (and definitely didn't need snowshoes for the rest of the hike). There was a group in front of us who had snowshoes tied to their backpacks and one of them made the comment to me that it's not worth it to put them on, which made us feel better that we didn't bring ours at all.

Sky Pond was quite windy (more so than the Loch and just barely more than at Lake of Glass). This is expected with winter hiking, which is why we didn't stop at Sky Pond for very long before heading back. We finally found a spot at the Lake of Glass to eat our lunch - burritos that we kept warm in a thermos in my pack. From there we scrambled down Timberline falls (nearly dying) and make it back to the Loch which was now completely in sun, but with the sun in the completely wrong spot to photograph... Oh well, it's still a gorgeous lake even if I can't photograph it well.

Overall, the hike was a little over 9 miles and 2,200 feet of elevation gain. This would have been a difficult hike in the summertime, but we decided to do it in the winter, which made it even harder. Despite the difficulty, we made it to the end of the hike with enthusiasm while seeing some fantastic sights along the way.

Powell PeakThe LochLooking EastLooking BackIce ClimbingLong IciclesLake of GlassBundled UpTrapped BubblesOver the EdgeFrozen in the LakeThe LochTired HikerCracked!

November 2022

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